Thought About Food Podcast

Joey Aloi on Food and Coal in West Virginia

March 16, 2021

This episode we spoke with Joey Aloi about his work with just transition and sustainable agriculture organizations in West Virgina, working to make Appalachia's food system more resilient, the history of that state and its relationship to food and energy, the aesthetics of experiencing natural beauty, and more! Even more than most episodes, I strongly recommend you check out the show notes for this episode.

Show Notes:

  • Follow us on Twitter at @FoodThoughtPod, and you can drop us a line at ThoughtAboutFood on Gmail. Leave us a review! It helps people find the show.
  • Joey Aloi publishes on field philosophy at the intersection of Philosophy with Environmental and Appalachian Studies.
  • One of the organizations Joey works with is Paradise Farms. Here's an interesting news article about Paradise Farms and the good work it does.
  • Paradise is one of several non-profit farms that are core members of the Turnrow Collective -- a food hub in West Virginia and a few adjacent Appalachian counties. Here's a good brief video introduction to Turnrow; here's an article about how Turnrow handled the early days of the pandemic, which we discussed in the interview; and here's Turnrow's own website.
  • The article of Joey's we discuss is Coal Feeds My Family, on the history of Appalachia through the lens of energy and food.
  • Here's a zine on issues in modern Appalachia you might enjoy: The Cornbread Communism Manifesto. It even has a recipe!
  • The recipe Joey brought for discussion was Anchovy Cauliflower Pasta. As he said in the interview, this is both a new and old tradition for his family, and we discuss Albert Borgman's work on focal practices like these. Here's the recipe!

    Ingredients:
    • olive oil
    • Flat leaf Italian parsley
    • One head of cauliflower (or broccoli if you like)
    • 2 tablespoons or a quarter cup of raisins
    • 2 tablespoons or a quarter cup of pinenuts
    • a half pound of pasta
    • a medium sized onion
    • A can of anchovies (or substitute capers, or porcini mushrooms, or sun-dried tomatoes, or a little bit of miso, or whatever gives you a nice salty umami flavor)
    • As much garlic, salt, black pepper and chili as you like 

    1. Toast the pinenuts whatever shade of brown you like (but don’t burn them!)
    2. Boil just a small amount of water, and pour it over the raisins so they can soak and get plump
    3. Cut the cauliflower into bite-size chunks, or break by hand. I usually just use the florettes, but you can toss the stems in if you want something that’s more difficult to chew
    4. Put the cauliflower in a steamer and start steaming it
    5. While you’re waiting on the cauliflower to start steaming, chop up the onion and begin to fry it in the olive oil.
    a. If you don’t wanna go overboard on the oil, make sure to open the anchovy can and pour all the oil out of it to cook the onion in before adding any more oil from the bottle
    6. When the onions are beginning to get translucent, open the anchovy jar and distribute the anchovies across the pan. I usually pull them each apart so that each one sets on the onions individually. Use your wooden spoon or whatever spatula you have to break up the anchovies and mix them around with the onions. You basically want to get rid of any chunks of anchovies, and just have it all be mixed thoroughly into the onion.
    7. Take the cauliflower out of the steamer and mix it in with the onion.
    a. You can reserve the water from steaming for the pasta, but you’ll probably need more water as well.
    b. Mixing the anchovies into the onion should’ve giving your cauliflower enough time to finish steaming, but make sure it’s pretty soft
    8. Toss the raisins and pinenuts in with the cauliflower and onion, and turn the heat down
    9. Salt pasta water so that it tastes like the sea, bring it to a boil, and then cook the pasta al dente
    10. I usually wait until I’m draining the pasta to add the garlic, salt, pepper, and any chilies, but you could add the garlic at the beginning instead if that’s your thing.
    a. I often cook this without any chilies at all, especially when it’s cauliflower and not broccoli. When I do use them, I usually just use red pepper flakes, but sometimes I’ll throw in Aleppo Pepper instead. Fresh peppers alter the flavor & texture. 
    11. Chop up the parsley as fine or coarse as you like
    12. Put the pasta on the plate, top it with the cauliflower and onion, and then with the parsley.
    13. You can add salt, pepper, or any kind of cheese (like Parmesan or whatever; don’t add provolone or ricotta.)

  • The intro and outro music is "Whiskey Before Breakfast" which is both a great traditional song and a nice companion to your aesthetic experience of nature. It was performed and shared by The Dan River Ramblers under a Creative Commons license.

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